2012 was a huge year for Kingsisle. Wizard101 saw the release of Avalon and Azteca, 2 main-story worlds with hours of new content and many new spells. However, Wizard101 wasn’t in the spotlight for most of 2012, because Kingsisle announced that they were working on another MMO, Pirate101, earlier that spring. Pirate101 looked to have many of the same aspects as Wizard101, with similar graphics, pop-culture references, the head guy whose name starts with an “A”, and turn-based combat. The combat in Pirate101 looked to be vastly different, however. Contrasting Wizard101, it was more similar to the combat systems in games from the Fire Emblem or Tactics Ogre series. Closed beta for Pirate101 was released soon after the game was announced, and the new MMO officially launched in October 2012.
While it quickly became the talking point of Wizard101 players and MMO enthusiasts, many people weren’t quick to dip their toes in the waters of Pirate101. The combat was daunting, seemingly much more complex than that of Wizard101 and many real-time-combat MMOs. Besides, after spending much time and money on other games, was it worth jumping ship and giving Pirate101 a try?
I told people why they should give Pirate101 a try back then and nothing has changed since. I am here today to tell you that yes, Pirate101 is worth playing. If you haven’t given it a serious try yet, go ahead and download it while you’re reading this (you’ll thank me later).
At the heart of any RPG is its story. The story is what propels the game forward, and the story is what keeps players engaged. Pirate101 does an excellent job telling its tale, and it’s incredibly well-written and surprisingly complex. Despite starting slow, it quickly builds up and you want to learn all you can about your pirate’s parents and El Dorado, the fabled city of gold. There’s humor and pop-culture references scattered throughout, but the story is surprisingly dark as you follow the main quests.
The last story update ended things in a pretty hurried and unrewarding way (much like Game of Thrones), but the story as a whole is amazing. There are also enough loose ends that can be addressed in future chapters or can be theorized about. After finishing the story, it’s fun and rewarding to go back on a new character and see all the foreshadowing and hints scattered throughout the earlier worlds.
While traversing the skyways, you’ll encounter a huge cast of intriguing and diverse characters. While there is one main villain, there are many others that you’ll encounter and fight that are very memorable. You also have companions who travel with you and who will join you in battle. Many of them have deep and complex backstories that you’ll get to learn more about as you level them up. Each pirate class gets different companions, meaning you’ll need 5 different characters if you want to experience all of the characters and writing in the game, adding to the replayability considerably.
Combat is what truly makes or breaks most MMOs, and Pirate101’s is incredibly well crafted. You have 5 classes: Buccaneer (A bruiser with strong physical defense and high damage); Swashbucklers (Rogues who dodge most attacks and deal high single target damage); Privateers (Heal and buffing class); Musketeers (Ranged class with traps and lots of attacks that hit multiple enemies); and Witchdoctors (Ranged class with a large variety of powers). You control your pirate as well as a few companions who are also one of the five classes.
Battles takes place on a board filled with squares (similar to a chess or checkers board), and every character takes one space on the board. Melee pirates and companions can move and attack enemies at the same time, whereas ranged pirates and companions can’t. They do, however, get the benefit of attacking enemies without getting close and taking as much damage. Your pirate and companions will get powers as you level up, which are kind of like spells in Wizard101. These attacks can’t miss and have a variety of effects, but can only be used once per fight. Powers can also come on some gear. After leveling up you’ll have a pretty good arsenal, allowing you to come up with effective strategies for battle.
There are also “epics”, which are triggered upon certain circumstances, like an enemy approaching you or you dodging an attack. These become more and more important as you level up, as you’ll gain more and so will enemies. It’s important to take note of what epics you and your enemies have, because it can affect matchups significantly.
While many fights are defeat all enemies, that isn’t always the case. Sometimes you just have to defeat the boss to end a battle, but trying to do so may leave you vulnerable to the many minions. Or maybe you have to survive for a certain number of rounds. There’s a pretty good variety to keep you on your toes, so it’s good to pay attention. Overall, Pirate101’s combat is much more complex than it is in Wizard101. Half of the battle is having a strategy in mind and taking note of all the little details.
There are many other parts of Pirate101 that add to the experience. The biggest is probably getting your own Pirate ship and fighting enemy ships. While ship combat isn’t nearly as complex as normal combat, it adds another layer to the already rich Pirate experience. There’s a large variety of ships and gear, but your ship will always hoist your flag, so it’ll always feel like your own.
The amount of customization in the game is also worth noting in general. Your companions clothes will match your flag’s background characters. There are also a ton of different gear styles in the game which you can stitch to gear with better stats if you’d like. Some are actually pretty rare and only dropped from difficult bosses. There’s a huge variety in gear that’s “viable” because powers on gear are usually more important than the stats. Because of this, you’ll very rarely see 2 people of the same class with the same or mostly same gear. You can also buy and decorate houses and train pets to help you in battle, or test your skills against other players in good ol’ PvP.
One of the smaller details in the game are puppet shows that are usually used to tell important back stories. These are often hilarious and over-exaggerated and help lighten up the story. This, and many of the small details scattered throughout the worlds, show how much care was put into the game while it was being created.
If you’re a fan of Wizard101 or other MMOs, go and give Pirate101 a try! There’s a considerable amount of free to play content, so it won’t cost anything to try it and get a sense of what it’s like. The real meat of the game isn’t free to play, but you you’ll get a sense for the combat, meet some of the main characters, and get to see some of the hard work that KI put into the game. If you used to play Pirate101 but haven’t in a while, go ahead and jump into the game again and see what’s changed. You may be surprised! There are rumors of a big update coming soon, so now’s a good time to jump into some new (or old) waters and set sail!